10 Wimbledon Break Points - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Comments

10 Wimbledon Break Points

10 points worth further discussion following a dramatic fortnight

Published

on

Novak Djokovic (zimbio.com)

This year’s Wimbledon Championships has been one filled with drama. From the longest men’s semi-final match of all time to Serena Williams’ impressive comeback. It will be a tournament that many will remember for years, but there are some topics that needs to be looked at.

 

1) The best-of-five format without a final set tiebreak needs to go. Now.

I could rant for thousands of words regarding all the reasons why the over six-and-a-half hour semifinal between Kevin Anderson and John Isner was utterly absurd. But at 15-15 in the fifth set, Patrick McEnroe summed up the situation perfectly on ESPN in the US:
“Maybe, just maybe this will be the match that gets the rule changed … There needs to be a tiebreak at some point in a final set. For the crowd, for these players, for you watching at home, for the other players [Nadal and Djokovic] … For the good of the game is the bottom line.”

2) Gender equality in court assignments has improved, but we’re not fully there yet.

Following this year’s Australian Open, I was critical of Tennis Australia for not providing the women’s matches the same platform as the men’s. For most of this year’s Wimbledon, I actually thought the AELTC did a good job in showing equality in their show court assignments. Yes, the “Manic Monday” schedule featured four men’s matches between Centre Court and No.1 Court, with the women only getting two spots. But with so many top women’s seeds not even making the second week, there were more men’s matches deserving of a show court assignment on that particular day. I’m sure fans with show court tickets would have been frustrated if any of those four men’s matches were played elsewhere. Where things became really complicated for the AELTC was when the men’s semifinals were not completed on Friday. Nadal and Djokovic were brought back the next day with a 1:00pm start, which delayed the women’s championship match by over two hours. While there was no perfect solution here, the tournament should have played the women’s final first, and waited to have Nadal and Djokovic play thereafter. That would have been far from ideal for the winner of Nadal and Djokovic, having to come back less than 24 hours later to play the final, but the men’s semifinals should not trump the women’s final. That decision however was not as bad as the tournament bumping the women’s doubles final to No.1 Court, while the men’s doubles final played out on Centre Court. I realize there wasn’t enough time to play both on Centre, and the men’s double final actually needed the roof closed to finish the fifth set, but bumping the women from Centre Court altogether was a really bad look for the tournament. If both doubles finals couldn’t be completed on Centre, then they both should have moved to No.1 Court. And you know how all of this could have been avoided? See point #1.

3) All things considered, tennis continues to be way ahead of the curve in terms of equality.

No other major sport showcases the men and women side-by-side on the same stage. The World Cup doesn’t feature the women with the men. You don’t see the WNBA playing alongside the NBA. Of course we should still strive for full equality in the sport, but the tennis world deserves credit for being a progressive leader in this way.

4) How can officials miss three calls on one shot?

During Djokovic’s third round match against Kyle Edmund, Novak had break point in the fourth set, and was just a few games away from victory. Djokovic hit a drop shot, and as Edmund ran forward and scooped the ball cross court, it would appear the ball bounced twice before he hit it. The replay would confirm this, yet Chair Umpire Jake Garner decided otherwise and awarded Edmund the point. After arguing this with Garner, Djokovic would then ask to challenge whether Edmund’s ball even landed in. However, Garner wouldn’t allow the challenge, claiming Djokovic had waited too long. The TV replay would clearly show the ball landed out. Replays also appeared to show that Edmund’s feet rain into the net before his shot bounced twice. That’s at least two, and a maximum of three ways in which Edmund should have lost the point, but not one of those calls were made. Edmund went on to hold his serve in a game where it clearly should’ve been broken. As Brad Gilbert has stated for many years, players should be allowed to challenge incidentals such as double bounces and net touches. This was as embarrassing a mistake as the 2004 Wimbledon, when the chair umpire miscalled the score during a second set tiebreak of Venus Williams’ second round match, which prematurely awarded victory to her opponent. In this case, at least Djokovic still won the set and the match, so justice prevailed in the end. And in poetic justice, Djokovic’s serve on match point was out, yet called in. However, Edmund had no challenges remaining, so the match was over. These were a truly bizarre few games to end the first week of play on Centre Court.

5) Déjà vu with Makarova

At least year’s US Open, Ekaterina Makarova appeared near-tears after dropping the second tiebreak, as she had been up a set and a break over Caroline Wozniacki. Makarova then took a bathroom break close to 10 minutes in length, which completely upset the flow of the match. Ekaterina would win the third set 6-1. At Wimbledon, Makarova would apply the same exact tactic against the same exact opponent. After losing the second set to Wozniacki 6-1, she again took an extended bathroom break, and returned to the court to win the match. Is anyone going to do anything about this pure gamesmanship? I would really like to stop writing about this, especially in regards to the same player.

6) It’s déjà vu all over again with Wozniacki

During her fourth round loss to Daria Kasatkina last month at Roland Garros, Wozniacki basically imposed her own work stoppage. Already trailing in the match, Wozniacki held up play for several minutes by arguing with officials that it was too dark to play. During her Wimbledon loss to Makarova, at 4-1 in the third, Wozniacki stopped playing to argue it was raining too hard to continue. Thankfully the Wimbledon officials promptly dismissed her complaint and told her to play on. Bravo to the officials for taking charge in these situations, and not bowing to one player’s wishes. And then we practically had a third déjà vu moment in this same match. At the Australian Open earlier this year, Wozniacki came back from 5-1 down in the third set of her second round match to win, saving a match point on the way. In this match against Makarova, Wozniacki was again down 5-1 in the third, and saved four match points to get back to 5-5. However this time, she lost the match 7-5. When Wozniacki and Makarova meet, the drama never ends. Following this match, as David Law reported on Twitter, Wozniacki said of Makarova’s tournament chances, “‘I would be very surprised if she goes far.” Geez. The behavior of both women is unbecoming of the sport.

7) Thankfully, this fortnight will be remembered much more for sportsmanship than gamesmanship.

Embed from Getty Images

The embraces shared by Nadal and Del Potro, Anderson and Isner, and Kerber and Serena at the conclusion of their matches were heart-warming. The ability to show such admiration and compassion for your opponent immediately after competing against them is what makes sport great. Especially notable were Anderson’s comments to the BBC in his post-match interview, where he described his struggle to even be happy for himself after winning his marathon semifinal due to how badly he felt for Isner’s loss. Well done, ladies and gents.

8) Reducing the amount of seeds in the draws is completely unnecessary. In fact, it’s harmful and unfair

Starting with next year’s Australian Open, the Majors will only seed 16 players instead of 32. In this tournament’s women’s singles draw, none of the top 10 seeds made the quarterfinals. While this was an extreme case of upsets, surprising first week results at the Majors are far from uncommon. Seeding only 16 players will cause more first week excitement and upsets, but will result in lower-quality matchups in the second week. There are plenty of players ranked below 16th in the world who are fully deserving of some draw protection. And in an era where we cling to so many all-time greats in the twilight of their careers, we will regret making it more challenging for them to go deep at Grand Slam events. This change should be immediately re-considered.

9) The on-court serve clock is not going to speed up play in any significant or consistent way.

The summer hard court events in North America will introduce an on-court serve clock, with the following guidelines announced per the US Open Series website:

“Players will have 25 seconds to begin their service motion, although a chair umpire will have the ability and discretion to pause the clock. They will have the ability to resume the clock from the same time or reset the clock to 25 seconds.
During a game, this 25-second clock will begin once the chair umpire has announced the score following the previous point. The receiver is responsible for playing to the server’s reasonable pace.
If the player has not started the service motion at the completion of the 25-second countdown, the chair umpire will issue a time violation.
After even-numbered games, the chair umpire will start the clock when the balls are all in place on the server’s end of the court.”

Slow-playing men like Nadal and Djokovic have spoken out against this implementation, but is anything going to really change? I just don’t see most chair umpires penalizing these superstars beyond a warning. These guidelines leave a lot of discretion in the hands of the umpires, as they can pause or reset the clock as they see fit, and are not required to immediately call the score as a point concludes. We already saw this during the semifinal between Nadal and Djokovic, where the chair umpire would often pause for a significant amount of time before calling the score, and thus delaying the start of the serve clock. And if different umpires will start the clock at different intervals, there’s no fairness in that. These rules leave room for too much discretion. I applaud the effort for transparency, but the impact here will be minimal at best.

10) Neither singles final was all that captivating, but cheers to the resiliency of all four finalists

Less than a year after a complicated child birth and multiple operations, Serena Williams returned to the ladies’ championship match in just her fourth tournament in 18 months. After an abysmal 2017 season which saw almost as many losses as wins, Angelique Kerber defeats the GOAT for the second time in a Major final, and for her first Venus Rosewater Dish. Dispelling a reputation for choking when it matters, Anderson saves match point to come back from two sets down against a 20-time Major champion, and somehow rebounds two days later to win a near-seven hour semifinal. Following two years of emotional and physical failures, Novak Djokovic reasserts his greatness by ousting Nadal in an epic semifinal, and winning his 13th Major. This fortnight provided us with plenty of inspiration.

Comments

Bigger Is Not Always Better When It Comes To The Davis Cup

The new Davis Cup format was unveiled at a week-long Madrid showcase. Read about how “first impressions are almost always the most lasting.”

Published

on

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 24: Spanish team celebrating the victory with the trophy after the final match between Spain and Canada of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Kosmos Tennis)

Now that the “bigger must surely be better” version of the Davis Cup has concluded, it’s time to take a look at how the event itself has evolved over time. Initially, it was a clubby/chummy affair between the US and the British Isles, as Great Britain was known long before there was even a thought of Brexit. True, there had been international, country versus country tennis gatherings, such as England versus Ireland or England versus France, but that was in the 1890s. The “official” team competition wasn’t birthed until 1900 when the US and BI faced-off at Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Massachusetts. 

 

The visitors, who were supposed to be the creme de la crème of tennis because they came from Great Britain, were throttled by their upstart hosts, 3-0. One of the competitors on the winning side was a Harvard student whose name was Dwight Davis. Five years after the launch, Australasia (with players from both Australia and New Zealand), Austria, Belgium and France took part in what was called the International Lawn Tennis Challenge. Perhaps to downplay the seeming pompousness of the title, the competition quickly became known as the Davis Cup, a salute to the perpetual trophy donor.

In the beginning, the event was played as a Challenge Cup. The set-up allowed the winner from the previous year to sit on the sideline while the other countries battled for a spot in the final. The “wait and watch” was great for the title holder but the format proved to be an ultra-marathon for all the other participants. In 1972 a change was finally made, and play became a somewhat more sensible win and advance tournament.

Since then, the international competition grew so large that it became unwieldy and modifications needed to be made. None of the alterations has even come close to matching the Madrid extravaganza that was created by Gerard Pique and his Kosmos team, supported by Hiroshi Mikitani’s Rakuten financing and sanctified by the International Tennis Federation.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 16: Gerard Pique speaks at the Official Dinner of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Galeria de Cristal Palacio de Cibeles on November 16, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Kosmos Tennis)

Before going further, it must be stressed that the “old Davis Cup way” was no longer working. But, bulldozing history to put up a new event demands an overwhelming amount of thought and even more insight.  Thus far, it appears that a “too much, too soon” approach has been built on a foundation that isn’t exactly sand, but something nearly as tenuous. The set-up has a number of fissures. It is as if, Pique and his collogues were trying to create a Tennis World Cup. Perhaps the group borrowed pages from the wandering methodology that has plagued the Fédération Internationale de Football Association Qatar World Cup preparation.

It must be mentioned that the novel undertaking was bold and there are hopes for it to get better. Still, with all the pre-tournament hype and sensational fanfare, there needs to be an assessment of what actually took place in Year One, in order for the event to improve. Particularly, in view of the fact that “first impressions are almost always the most lasting.”

A few of the issues that lead the “Could Have Done Better” list include:

  • Match scheduling (the US  versus Italy finished at 4:00 a.m., just in time for an early breakfast. (Nearly every match contested was almost nine hours in length.);
  • Plodding ticket sales;
  • Improvements in communication, so there is more clarity for the fans, players and media. Keeping the information flow accurate and continuous so that speculation doesn’t enter the tournament arena.

With the old Davis Cup there often were gripping, edge of your seat, emotional contests in the “five matches, five-set” play. Home and away ties truly added crowd fervor to a tasty recipe of competition.

It’s hardly surprising that whenever Spain played on the Manuel Santana Center Court, with a capacity of 12,422, the crowd was raucous. The Arantxa Sánchez Vicario No. 2 Court, with room for 2,923 spectators, rocked, but only on occasion. From time to time, Court No. 3 was loud too, but that was due more to having a mere 1,772 seats in an enclosed space than a collection of rabid fans.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 17: General view of Caja Magica during a training session of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 17, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Diego Souto / Kosmos Tennis)

Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt admitted that the atmosphere lacked feeling because of the neutral setting. French doubles standout Nicolas Mahut brought up how much his country’s fans ordinarily helped their team, but few were in attendance. Support groups of faithful French fans stayed away to show their unhappiness with the decision to scrap the old Davis Cup format.

In his New York Times, November 19th article, Christopher Clarey quoted Ion Tiriac.  “The Brasov Bulldozer”, who owns the ATP Masters event held in Madrid, candidly said, “It is a joke and a disgrace. They have ruined the jewel of tennis.”

Reducing a tie to three matches (two singles and just one doubles) made the matches Tweet-like. Instead of slashing the number of characters that could be used, the new look limited the essence of the product being proffered – The players and their teams. The confusion became more profound on the rules front when it came to “play or don’t play” the doubles, the tie-break and translating the results system. It seemed only those with a mathematics degree could make sense of the situation. Additionally, with18 countries participating, many ended up feeling they were meandering members of a “lost tennis tribe”…or they came to the conclusion that they needed a serious calculation class.

Another issue, (and this may be the most bewildering particularly to journalists who have a stake in promoting the game worldwide), was the accrediting process. Anxious to have the tournament touted, the tennis media from here, there and everywhere was encouraged to apply for accreditation. Yet, a number of accomplished writers were denied credentials while, at least, two publications that no longer exist were granted event access.

A soccer pitch is sizeable (75 yards wide and 120 yards long but it can vary). In comparison, a tennis court is a tiny 26 yards long and 13 yards wide (including the doubles alleys). The point – There were many comments about the need for trekking skills to traverse the architecturally pleasing Caja Mágica three court complex. Perhaps hosting such a colossal spectacle at a new location, combined with  “never been there or done that” brought about those first experience jitters.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 24: Crowds of peoples during of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Kosmos Tennis)

Looking at the big picture, the most staggering aspect of the “new” Davis Cup was the 25-year agreement with $3 billion dollars at stake. How do tennis fans put these “Monopoly-money” like figurers into any meaningful perspective?

The quarter-century commitment and pledged funding are difficult to comprehend . The years and financial “unreal” combination brings to mind 1999, when the staggering ISL (International Sport and Leisure) Worldwide-ATP marketing, broadcasting and licensing agreement for “elite” tournaments was made. It was a ten-year arrangement for $1.2 billion. Unfortunately, ISL, which also had close ties with FIFA, collapsed in May 2001. Oops.

Canada’s performance was stellar in reaching the final against Spain. Because of the “magic” that had been part of its success, “The Great White North” was looking to join Australasia, Croatia, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden and US each of whom won the Davis Cup in its debut.

Having won the tie five times since 2000, the home country was a prohibitive favorite to earn number six. That Spain closed out the inaugural Pique/Kosmos/Rakuten/ITF Davis Cup, 2-0, wasn’t surprising. As a result, the Canadian first-timers joined Japan in 1921, Mexico in 1962, Chile in 1976, Slovakia in 2005 and Belgium in 2017 as debut finalists and history’s runners-up.

With 24 more years to go, the new Davis Cup has real potential. Still, the tennis world is trusting that the future offers more than a quote from Bob Dylan, the 2016 Literature Nobel Prize winner who many have regarded as the world’s poet laurate. In 1964, he said, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

From afar, the 2019 Davis Cup appeared to be a week-long exhibition. Through no fault of its own, Spain benefitted, but was that fair to the others?  It actually seems like something was lost in the transition translation.

 

Continue Reading

Comments

A Rude And Silly Reply From Nadal, I Am Waiting For His Apology

I asked Nadal an innocent question about his wedding; he took it so badly that he eventually burst into an offensive: “That’s bullshit”

Published

on

LONDON – I was really surprised by Rafael Nadal’s reaction to a question that was quite innocent and totally legitimate. A reaction I consider unbecoming of him, rude and silly. I sincerely hope he will extend his apology for this behaviour. Respect remains paramount, no matter if you are the greatest champion or the new kid on the block. In front of everybody, Rafa disrespected me.

 

I hadn’t seen him since the Laver Cup in Geneva. And in the meantime,… he had gotten married. I had no intention whatsoever to ask a particularly original question or, as I have seen written in some tweets, to “show off”. And I certainly didn’t want to provoke him. Maybe the question did not come out the way I wanted: we always need to be concise during press conferences, and you cannot explain all the details, but what I wanted to ask was simply for him to explain whether the days around his wedding day had been emotional, different from the normal routine made of trainings, forehands and backhands. That’s all, no malicious innuendos, no desire to be irritating or original. I was just curious about what I considered a special moment in his life. Getting married is usually not like taking a walk in the park, even when it is possible to rely on a full team taking care of the arrangements – I assume that was the case for him – and there aren’t many details you have to worry about.

I am sorry I am forced to report such an ill-advised behaviour by Rafa Nadal of all people. He is a champion and, before that, a young man I have always appreciated, with whom I have had a good relationship ever since I saw him play for the first time in Montecarlo. He was just 17 years old, and one night he finished his match against Albert Costa very late, playing under the floodlights, in front of a scattered crowd, when most reporters had already left the Country Club to attend the traditional soirèe the tournament organizes every year at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, next to the Jimmy’z.

This is the video footage of our exchange at the end of his English-language press conference, before the question time reserved for the Spanish press. Our dialogue starts at 10:50.

In essence, I asked Rafa if by any chance his wedding had been a disrupting element, albeit solemnly important, to his routine. This is the transcript of our interaction, with my notes in brackets.

Q. Tonight you were playing very short many times. I don’t know why, because you’re not used to that. I’d like to know, for many people to get married is a very important distracted thing (in the life of a man and a woman, it was implied) before the marriage, during the marriage, after the marriage. I’d like to know if somehow your concentration on tennis life has been a bit different even if you were going out with the same girl for many, many years (I was implying that it wasn’t love at first sight, I understand it didn’t turn his life upside down, but it still could have had some distracting effect, with the King of Spain being present and all… It wasn’t a small family wedding)

RAFAEL NADAL: Honestly, are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?

Q. It’s serious. (Off microphone.) Is not something that happens every day (at that point I had no microphone any longer so my retort was not captured by the official transcript), you can experience strong emotions, your parents, your wife, yourself…

RAFAEL NADAL: Okay. I surprise, is a big surprise for me you ask me this after I have been with the same girl for 15 years and having a very stable and normal life.

Doesn’t matter if you put a ring on your finger or not. In my personal way, I am a very normal guy.

Maybe for you was (did he want to add ‘different’) — how many years you have been with your…

Q. Wife 30 years this year.

RAFAEL NADAL: And before?

Q. (off microphone) 5 years

RAFAEL NADAL: Ah, maybe before you were not sure. That’s why (he smiles to the rest of the press room and he adds). Okay. Okay. We move to Spanish, because that’s bullshit. Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, due to some background chatter in the interview room I didn’t hear the “bullshit” word, I just read it on the transcript after a few colleagues made me notice he disrespected me. In fact, as soon as I went back to the press room, all colleagues, French, Swiss, even Spanish expressed their support to me because my question was perfectly legitimate, it was not engaging, mean, embarrassing or indelicate. So much so that when Rafa asked me whether it was a joke or a serious question, I immediately replied “It’s serious”. I was surprised he even had to ask.

The fact that Rafa has been together with Cisca, Francisca, Maria Francisca or Mer for 15 years does not imply that the days around his wedding, with 300 guests, friends, the King of Spain Juan Carlos ans other sporting legends were just like a walk in the park. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know whether Rafa’s parents, or Meri’s parents or some of their close friends cried, were moved to tears, experienced all those emotions that are normally coupled with weddings.

If Rafa did not experience any emotions just because he has been with the same woman for 15 years, that’s his problem. As far as I am concerned, maybe I’m just more romantic, or softer, but I thought it would be normal to get emotional in tying the knot with the woman of your life in front of so many people; an important, unforgettable moment. People usually live that day as a very special day. Rafa does not hold back expressing his emotions when he wins an important point on court – over and above his “vamos”, his jumps and his fist pumps – if his wedding day was a routine experience for him, but just the formalization of his union by exchanging rings with his fiancée… well, I am sorry for him. I don’t know what Xisca thinks about it. Judging from Rafa’s response, there should be no enthusiasm or emotion capable to upset his routine, when getting married after having been with the same woman for 15 years. He was even surprised when someone, like myself, asked him about possible emotions on his wedding day. I am stunned. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I feel I should point this out because of the way he treated me. 

To put it simply, I could not believe that even after dating the same woman for 15 years, the day before the wedding could be completely routine, without any emotional involvement. This is why I asked the question, without thinking it could be misinterpreted, or considered a joke, even less labeled as ‘bullshit’. 

Perhaps Rafa was nervous because he had just lost a match (6-2, 6-4 without ever getting a break point) against an opponent he had always defeated before, Alexander Zverev. This could partially justify his behaviour, but he had not given any signs of nerves during the previous questions. I have always considered him an intelligent person. But sometimes even intelligent people make mistakes or say silly things. But they apologise afterwards. I hope Rafa is going to do it, sooner or later. If he won’t, never mind. But he will not make a very good impression to me or to all my colleagues, including the Spanish reporters from Puntodebreak and Eurosport who came to talk to me immediately after the incident. 

I want to stress once again that my curiosity about how he may have reacted to an important moment in his life that I didn’t believe could be seen as a mere formality, was entirely innocent. He didn’t understand it, I hope someone will explain him, even if this for sure will not be an important moment in his life. Even if, in some way, we have been knowing and seeing each other for 15 years.

Article originally published in Italian on ubitennis.com

 

NOTE TO OUR READERS – In reference to the exchange occurred between myself and Rafael Nadal during the press conference following his first match, I have had a clarifying meeting after his win against Medvedev. We both have acknowledged the reasons that led to the misunderstanding and the subsequent exchange of unpleasant words, mainly due to our imperfect knowledge of the English language. This is it. We’ll turn the page, for everyone’s satisfaction, and Nadal and I maintain the mutual respect that has always been a cornerstone of our relationship. Our readers are naturally free to form their own opinion on this event, but at this stage any further comment would appear unnecessary. Thank you for your attention. (Ubaldo Scanagatta)

Continue Reading

Comments

Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Significance

Annually, around the world, those who served in their country’s military are remembered for the commitment they made to insure freedom. Usually tennis players are feted for their success on court. Many of them have been heroes on other fronts. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month calls attention to those who have made a difference.

Published

on

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day. It was a day to honor all the US military veterans who served their country. It should not be confused with Memorial Day, which recognizes all those who perished while safeguarding the nation.  

 

Armistice Day had originally been called Remembrance Day. It was first observed in 1919 in the British Commonwealth, recognizing the armistice that ended World War I on Monday, November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is especially significant because it ended what had been thought to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, it wasn’t, but the day has been set aside to honor those who helped keep the world safe from tyranny.  

An all-star collection of tennis players served their country during World War II. The Gestapo arrested Jean Borotra one of the famed Four Musketeers in November of 1942. He was sent to a German concentration camp and then to Itter Castle in Austria. In a battle for the castle, he escaped and played a role in the subsequent victory that was earned. 

Stade Roland Garros was stained by having served, from 1939-40, as an “centre de rassemblement”, an internment camp for political dissidents and foreign nationals. Those euphemistically “housed” at the facility lived and slept in “the caves” beneath the stairwells at what is now Court Philippe Chatrier. Present day players have said they can feel their ghosts while waiting in the corridor to walk onto Chatrier to compete in their matches.

Yvon Petra was the last Frenchman to win Wimbledon and the last men’s champion to wear long pants in The Championships final in 1946. Becoming a Grand Slam singles winner is especially commendable since he was held prisoner in a German camp for two years after he was captured in 1940, in Alsace, France during the invasion. He seriously injured his left knee attempting to avoid capture. Ironically, because he had competed in Germany before the war, he was recognized as someone notable which resulted in a doctor being sent from Berlin to treat his injury.

Tom Brown spent WWII in a tank… with a tennis racquet. He never really said if the racquet was a constant reminder of his pre-war on-court success and inspired him at Wimbledon in 1946. But, having just traded his Army khakis for white tennis shorts, he was a Wimbledon semifinalist, losing to Petra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 8-6.  

Art Larsen, who was nicknamed “Tappy” because of his habit of tapping things for good luck, played tennis as therapy. A talented lefthander, he was mentally scarred because he had participated in the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day in WWII. After the war, he recalled the terror of watching US planes mistakenly bomb US troops thinking they were German forces. He admitted after surviving without a scratch, his behavior became even more eccentric because he had witnessed that terror.  (Then they called it shellshock, but now it is referred to as PTSD.)

Of all the famous players who served with distinction, none could match Gardnar Mulloy. Mulloy was a naval officer who commanded a LST32 (Tank Land Ship) in the Mediterranean during WWII. In 2015, the year before he passed away, Mulloy received a French Legion of Honor an accolade for his involvement in the operations that took place in Italy and the Provence area in France. The recognition made him the oldest recipient of the order since it was created by Napoleon.

Robert (Bobby) Abdesselam, a great junior player prior to WWII, and later the President of the French International Tennis Club from 1993 until 2004, played a role in the landing of the Allied Forces in Algiers in 1942. As a member of the French Expeditionary Corps, he served as a liaison officer in the Italian campaign. His courage was rewarded when he received the Cross of War (1939-45) and a US Bronze Star.

It is impossible to adequately pay tribute to all of those who, over the years, have made their country better through military service. In early September, the US Open took a monumental step by recognizing those in the services by celebrating Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day. (Hunt was the 1943 US National singles champion who lost his life when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, went into a deadly spin on a training flight off the Florida coast in early 1945.)

But, there are so many others who have been overlooked. Individuals who put their lives on the line around the world in places like Korea, Vietnam, in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan to name but a few of the conflicts since WWII. So many were killed but even more have slipped back into civilian life unsung and unrecognized, forced to ignore the scars that often don’t show. Anyone who served his or her country should be recognized every day, because they are the reason we can breathe free. 

They deserve much more than one day a year gratitude. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Honorees are among us twenty-four/seven. They should never be forgotten because they sacrificed so much so that we can remain free.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending